Yangon finally has a poke place

A salmon poke bowl with spicy aioli from the Poke Bar in Yangon. Photo: Coconuts Yangon
A salmon poke bowl with spicy aioli from the Poke Bar in Yangon. Photo: Coconuts Yangon

More than two years after poke broke free of its Hawaiian roots and swept across the US mainland, the super-tasty raw fish food trend has finally travelled far enough in the opposite direction to make it to Myanmar’s biggest city.

Poke (‘po-kay’), traditionally a dish made from diced raw tuna, Hawaiian rock salt, kukui nut, and seaweed, has taken on new life over the last few years as restaurants in cities across the world have begun reinterpreting it and serving it with an endless array of sauce and topping options.

On Monday, the Poke Bar opened its doors in the Time Link shopping center in Bahan Township, making it the first restaurant in Yangon dedicated to the dish.

Previously, Yangonites could shell out between K13,000 and K18,000 for a pre-set poke bowl at Novotel’s Gourmet Bar. The Poke Bar also has pre-set dishes but also lets customers design their own combinations of rice, fish, and toppings for up to half the price.

Here’s how it works:

The Poke Bar says it uses “quality sushi-grade fish” that is imported by a “leading seafood distribution company in Myanmar.”

Coconuts sampled a couple bowls this week, and we’d rate the freshness of the fish as not the freshest ever but pretty fresh. We’ve been more impressed by the tuna and the salmon, but quality may vary by day. Considering that the poke bowl trend is often described as a way of masking moderately fresh fish with sauces and toppings, the quality of the Poke Bar’s fish  places it in the same league as the average poke place you’d find in any other city, and that might be exactly what we need.

Aside from the fish, the other ingredients were top-notch — the diced mango was soft and juicy, and the avocado slices were tender. The spicy aioli was well-balanced, while the wasabi aioli was more potent than expected but suited the bowl well.

We were also pleased to find that the place has pretty good Wi-Fi (the password is Mahalo18) and that the staff are super sweet and good at what they do. They’re generous with sauces, so be sure to ask to sample more than one.

The Poke Bar is located on the ground floor of the Time Link shopping center, at the corder of at the corner of Dhammazedi Road and Link Road, in Bahan Township. It’s open from 10am to 9pm.

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